Tuesday, November 23, 2010


The Civil Beat goes on, somewhere

by Larry Geller

I was glad to email my views on the Civil Beat venture to Rick Edmonds of Poynter Online. And I thank him for the link back to Disappeared News.

He did quote me briefly, but more important, he summarized Civil Beat’s progress during its first six months.

I would like to address the misunderstanding that I believe all news should be free in the sense that no one has to pay for it. In an earlier article today I described agonizing a bit over whether to renew my subscription to the Star-Advertiser, which would seem to validate John Temple’s response to my criticism—that

If Larry wants to read the Star-Advertiser newspaper, he has to pay for it.

That’s not true. I can read it for free on-line. I choose to subscribe, but I don’t have to. It’s similar to public radio—listeners can subscribe or not. Most, I have heard, do not. Yet the stations grow and prosper (Hawaii Public Radio will be heard free from even more places around the state thanks to new repeaters on the Neighbor Islands).

This is key. Whatever Civil Beat is doing inside their gated community, no matter how fine their work no matter how erudite the discussion, it means nothing to me or to most of the rest of the state or planet that cannot read it. It’s the antithesis of public radio or of traditional journalism.

Before the Internet, one could read newspapers at a library, or borrow one, or even stand there in Borders and read a little. Coffee shops, restaurants and doctors offices leave newspapers around. Local content is on the web, since we do have the Internet now.

Google finds and indexes most websites and makes the work available to anyone. A journalist can be read by tens of thousands of readers or many times more.

Unless that journalist works for Civil Beat.

Good luck to them, may they prosper and employ many more journalists and editors. I do wish them well, but mostly, they have nothing to do with me, or most people in Hawaii.

Maybe I’ve ranted enough about this, but I feel a strong sense of loss. I genuinely hoped that CB would in some way represent a rebirth of sorts in Hawaii, a reversal of the dismal national trend. It still could. So I write, urging them to try something different.

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I was given a 3 month free subscription to Civil Beat for writing the Energy Chapter in “The Value of Hawai`i: Knowing the Past, Shaping the Future.” In deciding whether to continue subscribing I considered that Civil Beat offers for money what many others offer for free.

Two questions that pop up for me are (1) is CB uncovering and releasing information that has generally been unpublished? (2) Are CB stories reliable, in-depth, comprehensive and balanced or are they relying on very few and highly repetitive sources that also provide info on free sites?

Each person must make their own choice about subscribing.

It looks like they are a growing presence at City Hall and State Capitol. That's a big contribution considering the lack of transparency in Hawaii government.

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